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Tesco 'disappointed' at 'inaccurate' claims by TD that 1,200 jobs are on the line

The retail giant has rejected claims by Dublin TD Joan Collins concerning potential industrial action in stores in no uncertain terms.

439516532_44263aed56_o Source: Gordon Joly

TODAY AND TOMORROW, Tesco workers in the Mandate union will be balloted on whether to take industrial action as the retail giant expresses its ‘disappointment’ at the move.

It is the second such vote to be taken in the last 12 months. Last April, union members voted overwhelmingly to strike over a two-tier contract system the company was reportedly hoping to instate.

That action came on the back of Labour Court recommendations which were rejected by Mandate members.

Tesco said at the time that such changes were necessary as employees working off pre-1996 contracts were causing the staffing roster to be unworkable.

The company asked all staff who had been working there since before 1996 to sign up to contracts for greatly-reduced pay. Possible industrial action was delayed through the intervention of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

However, potential strike action is being threatened again as allegations have surfaced that the company plans to initiate the same Labour Court recommendations that were rejected by staff last March.

The ballot will apply to “a small selection, about 50″ of Tesco stores, according to Mandate.

Last week, Independents4Change TD for Dublin South Central Joan Collins raised the potential strikes during Leaders’ Questions in Dáil Éireann and claimed that Tesco plans to bypass Mandate and ‘unilaterally impose pay cuts of 15% on the company’s longest-serving workers’.

Currently, Tesco employs around 14,500 workers in Ireland.

Collins further claimed that those workers are facing a 15% pay cut, and that the move is part of a larger plan, known as ‘Project Black’, which “aims to get rid of 1,200 of the most secure and well-paid jobs in the company”. She described such actions as “both worrying and unnecessary”.

Mandate general secretary John Douglas meanwhile described the move as “bullying and intimidation”.

90414380_90414380 Joan Collins Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

“Tesco is the largest employer in an increasingly low-paid private sector, so what it does matters,” Douglas said.

In deciding to bypass the union and impose cuts the company is undermining jobs that provide decent standards of living for workers and opening the door to conditions of insecurity and low-pay that exist in non-unionised parts of the retail sector.

‘Not accurate’

Ahead of this week’s ballot, Tesco has replied in no uncertain terms as to its displeasure with the pending union action.

“We are disappointed that Ms Collins did not contact Tesco to understand the details of this issue as her claims are not accurate,” the company said in a statement.

We have not imposed any terms as Ms Collins claims, the rate of pay will not change, around 280 people of our 14,500 workforce are affected not the number claimed, the proposed new terms and conditions are a Labour Court Recommendation and give full compensation to all in scope.
It is surprising that Mandate are balloting for industrial action in a small number of stores. Most unusually the union is rejecting a Labour Court Recommendation which it had sought and sets out a clear and generous resolution.

The company described the Labour Court recommendation as being “at the upper end of affordability”, but said it had accepted it “in the spirit of reaching agreement and re-positioning our business in the challenging retail market”.

The existence or otherwise of ‘Project Black’ was not mentioned in the company’s statement, despite a question regarding that alleged plan being put to it specifically by TheJournal.ie.

Reacting to the Tesco statement, Douglas said that workers are “living under the threat of substantial and significant reductions”.

Regarding ‘Project Black’, Douglas confirmed he was aware of the claims made by Collins in the Dáil that international legal firm Eversheds had been allegedly commissioned to draw up that plan.

“Tesco’s whole approach to this entire negotiation process has been very unusual,” he said.

Even last week they were due to meet the union on Wednesday, but the day prior the directors wrote to every employee implementing a 2% pay increase backdated to April, even though that offer was to be tabled the following day.
Likewise, with the Labour Court recommendations they agreed to those recommendations immediately.

“Yet this ignores the fact that 900 jobs are gone over the last year via quote-unquote voluntary redundancy, and those jobs haven’t been replaced,” he added.

The company wants to move to so-called ‘modern contracts’, but the whole thing is indicative of a dumbing-down of the negotiations process.

Response

Responding to these claims in turn, Tesco said: “The 2016 pay award was due on 1 April 2016 and by the end of January 2017 we decided that it was unfair to delay the announcement any further and so we announced that colleagues would receive a 2% award and a lump sum backdated to 1 April 2016.”

The following week, we met the Unions as planned to outline this decision which is in line with pay increases in the retail sector in 2016 and consistent with the 2015 Labour Court recommendation on pay. The 2% pay award for 2016 is the fourth consecutive annual pay award announced.

Regarding the pre-1996 contract issue, the company said:

“Tesco accepted the Labour Court recommendation which came at the end of 12 months of negotiations; Mandate has rejected it.”

The Labour Court recommendation protects rate of pay and in fact for 90% of people in scope they will receive a pay rise.
In the last 12 months over 700 people have opted to take voluntary redundancy and have received an average payment of €105,000.
At the same time we have given 3,500 existing colleagues a guaranteed minimum extra five hours per week creating better quality jobs and ensuring we have more colleagues working during the busiest times of the week.

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